Parliament, Friday, 9 August 2019 – Parliament’s Presiding Officers, National Assembly Speaker Ms Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Mr Amos Masondo, join the nation in saluting the women and girl children of South Africa for their resilience, courage and tenacity as the nation marks Women’s Day. We continue to be inspired by the unwavering and bold resolve by this country’s women and girl children towards the elimination of any form of injustice, to bring about a non-sexist, united, non-racial, prosperous and free South Africa.

This year marks the 63th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March against the pass laws, as well as 25 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa. 2019 also marks 65 years since the founding conference of the Federation of South African Women, which adopted the 1954 Women’s Charter. The Charter, amongst other things, called for the enfranchisement of men and women of all races; for equal opportunities in employment; equal pay for equal work; equal rights in relation to property, marriage and children; and the removal of all laws and customs that denied women such equality. Last year, Parliament hosted the Women’s Charter Review Conference as part of a national conversation to review the Women’s Charter through sustained dialogue and interactive discussions with women across the country.

On Women’s Day, the nation must reflect deeply on progress achieved in 25 years of democracy, particularly in the areas of women’s empowerment, gender mainstreaming, equality and the abolition of any discriminatory practices and abuse against women.

As we mark this historically significant day, our country unfortunately continues to be plagued by the scourge of gender-based violence. South Africa can never claim to be free if children and women continue to die at the hands of men and boys, most of whom share close relationships with them.

Gender-based violence undermines the gains of our hard-earned democracy and the sacrifices of gallant women activists, such as those who confronted the nerve centre of evil and brutality in 1956. All of us must serve as active citizens who, within our homes and communities, work daily to squeeze out of our society all the perpetrators of violence and discrimination. Men, boys, husbands and brothers have a significant role to play in safeguarding our democracy and freedom against gender-based violence and discrimination. We owe it to a better tomorrow and future generations to inculcate values of responsible citizenship and Ubuntu amongst boy children, in particular.

As the highest oversight and law-making body of our country, Parliament will continue to use its powers enshrined in the Constitution to abolish practices and acts that discriminate against women, devalue their humanity and harm them.

Through legislative interventions, Parliament will continue to protect women and girl children while holding the executive to account regarding the implementation of laws and policies promoting their interests.

Some of the key legislation promoting the interests of women passed by Parliament since 1994 include laws against discrimination and inequality (the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act), and against violence and harassment (the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act). Parliament has also passed laws protecting the rights of women, such as reproductive health (the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act) and customary law (the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act).

It goes without saying that the battle against discrimination and harmful practices against women also requires women to fill key positions of power in all spheres of society. The continuing increase in women’s representation in Parliament enables greater sensitivity and vigour in the advancement of women’s issues through oversight, law-making and public engagement.

From 124 women Members of Parliament in the first democratic Parliament of 1994 to 1999, the number of women MPs now significantly increased to 201 women in the current parliamentary term.

Out of the 54 countries in Africa, the South African Parliament is ranked third in women’s representation after Rwanda and Namibia, while globally the Inter-Parliamentary Union places South Africa in 10th place out of 193 countries.

Although there is still so much to be achieved, the gains in women’s representation in the national legislature over the years is a clear indication that Parliament takes women’s issues seriously.

ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
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